By Bill Parry
The reconstruction of LaGuardia Airport will begin later this year after the Port Authority’s board of commissioners unanimously voted to advance the $4 billion modernization project last week. The board approved a lease with LaGuardia Gateway Partners to design, build, finance, operate and maintain a new state-of-the-art Terminal B.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo made the comprehensive redesign of the airport a priority at a press event in July with Vice President Joe Biden, who had likened the dilapidated airport to one “in a third-world country” the previous year.
“This vote marks a critical step forward in our effort to overhaul LaGuardia Airport,” Cuomo said. “Our plan will fundamentally transform LaGuardia—replacing what is now an outdated and poorly designed complex with the world-class airport New Yorkhas always deserved. This represents a major milestone for the project—the first of many—and I look forward to seeing construction begin later this year.”
The lease also includes the construction of a new Central Hall and connecting concourse that will turn the airport into a single, unified main terminal, a key recommendation of Cuomo’s airport advisory panel. The terminal will be moved 600 feet closer to the Grand Central Parkway, allowing for more taxiways that will reduce airport ground delays.
LaGuardia Gateway Partners will also construct new roads, utilities and runway improvements as well as a West Parking Garage and other supporting infrastructure. Under the public-private partnership, two-thirds of the $4 billion design and construction cost will be paid for by private financing and existing passenger fees.
The risk of cost overruns or schedule delays in the LaGuardia project will be transferred from the Port Authority to LGP, a private airport developer selected and approved in May 2015 by the Port Authority board after a competitive bidding process.
“Approval of the lease with LGP is both the first major step toward Gov. Cuomo’s modernization of LaGuardia Airport and the largest public-private partnership for new transportation infrastructure in U.S. history,” Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye said. “The transaction brings private capital and expertise to an airport in desperate need of investment, and shifts the risks of complex construction in an operating airport environment from the Port Authority to well-capitalized private parties.”
State officials contend LaGuardia’s modernization will be a major economic boon for the region, generating $1.3 billion in wages and $5.2 billion in regional economic activity. Cuomo said construction will begin “shortly,” with significant completion of portions of the airport opening 39 months after the start of construction.
“Modernizing our aging airport terminals demonstrates the Port Authority’s commitment to focusing on the region’s transportation infrastructure,” PA Vice Chairman Scott Rechler said. “To achieve operating efficiencies, offer our customers the best in world-class service and meet the anticipated rise in passenger demand, it is imperative that the agency continues to make these investments in our airports.”
The entire project is expected to be completed by 2021. The airport will remain in operation throughout the reconstruction, according to the Port Authority.
The board of commissioners also voted to construct a new central bus terminal in Manhattan. The current bus terminal opened in 1950 with more than 66 million passing through it annually.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr